May 24, 20011, Washington, D.C. – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today launched a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking immediate release of documents that the United States government has refused to provide regarding its knowledge of and role in the deadly May 31, 2010 attack by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Among the nine civilians killed was 18-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Doğan who was shot several times as he was filming the 4:00 a.m. raid, and then shot in the face at point blank range as he lay there wounded. Fifteen other U.S. citizens participated in the flotilla, including five who traveled on a U.S. registered boat; many were beaten and injured.
Said Professor Ahmet Doğan, father of Furkan, “I have travelled twice to Washington, D.C. seeking answers and support in my efforts to achieve justice and accountability for my son’s killing. So far, my efforts have not been successful. I call upon the United States government to at least release information related to the flotilla attack and what it knows about my son’s death. Why isn’t the United States investigating the death of a U.S. citizen in this case?”
The federal lawsuit, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Department of Defense, et al was filed in the Southern District of New York against the Defense Department as well as numerous other federal departments, including Justice and State, and various components of the U.S. military. The initial FOIA requests were filed nearly 11 months ago: only two agencies responded, and their responses were wholly inadequate, according to the suit.
“One year after the deadly attack on the humanitarian flotilla, the American public has been told nothing about what actions, if any, the United States undertook to ensure that U.S. citizens and other civilians were protected when they sailed towards Gaza,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney, Katherine Gallagher. “A U.S. citizen was killed and the U.S. has not conducted an independent investigation into his killing in international waters by a foreign military. Indeed, the State Department did not even mention the killing of Furkan Doğan in its recently released Human Rights report on Israel. We need to know what our government is doing to protect us – and hold those to account who harm U.S. citizens.”
The attack by Israeli commandos took place in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea against a six-boat humanitarian flotilla headed to Gaza with more than 700 civilian passengers. One of the ships was registered in the U.S. The flotilla sought to bring food and other humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza, who have been living under an Israeli blockade for nearly five years.
Commandos seized the property of U.S. citizens, including a video camera that recorded the raid, and Israel continues to retain control of this property. The Center for Constitutional Rights is seeking communications from and to the U.S. agencies named in the lawsuit that relate to the preservation of evidence that might shed light on the death of Furkan Doğan. The Center further seeks any documents that could show what steps the Department of State, Department of Justice and other agencies have taken to ensure that Furkan’s death be properly and independently investigated. The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission concluded that the refusal of Israel to return this personal property is, “a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence and other information related to the events of 31 May.” The full UN report can be viewed here (PDF).
Said Jessica Lee, of the University of Virginia International Human Rights Law Clinic, which is co-counsel in the case, “With the blockade continuing, another humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza is planned for next month. The blockade cannot be reconciled with principles of international law; it amounts to collective punishment. Regardless of how one determines Israel’s legal obligations with respect to Gaza, civilians have the right to receive food and medical supplies. And United States citizens who participate in non-violent humanitarian missions have the right to know what protections they can expect their government to provide in international waters.”
To read the complaint, visit the Center’s legal case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.